By on April 19, 2019

Nissan Motor Co. has pledged a donation of 100,000 euros ($112,000) for the restoration of the fire-kissed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. However, the company’s act of kindness is overshadowed by its rather interesting timing. Nissan’s relationship with partner Renault and the French government has grown strained since the arrest of former Alliance boss Carlos Ghosn — now back in jail after his fourth arrest and rumored to be facing indictment on new charges early next week in Japan.

Then again, the fire at Notre Dame was an extremely high-profile incident, leading to the donation of millions in charitable contributions for its repair. Where it not for the elevated tensions between the company and Renault/France, nobody would question Nissan’s motives in the slightest.  (Read More…)

By on April 16, 2019

Over the past several years, the Chinese government embarked on an aggressive electric vehicle push, hoping to mitigate the nation’s severe air pollution, reduce its reliance on oil imports, and foster a high-tech manufacturing sector that could put the rest of the world to shame. The result of these efforts? Hundreds of new EV companies, propped up by Chinese subsidies and investors, with no real future.

While it was known that most of these startups would never make it to the finish line, estimates of their survivability rate has grown increasingly bleak. For a time, it was assumed that most would die out — leaving anywhere between 5 and 10 percent to reach the assembly phase. However, NIO Capital’s Ian Zhu posited that the number was likely closer to 1 percent last August.

China is now pulling back its support, with many believing the industrial bubble is about to pop. And they have the math to back it up.  (Read More…)

By on April 12, 2019

General Motors has been negotiating with Rivian, the Michigan-based company developing some of the slickest EVs we’ve seen in a while, over the possibility of purchasing an equity stake in the promising startup. Following news that Amazon was leading a $700 million round of funding in Rivian in February, reports came streaming in that the biggest of The Big Three would likely become the startup’s next backer.

The rumored deal was expected to result in GM bringing an electric pickup to market sooner than anticipated, with Rivian seeing a boost to its funds and manufacturing capabilities. However, talks don’t appear to have progressed as expected.  (Read More…)

By on April 12, 2019

China’s auto sales declined for the ninth consecutive month in March, further proving that the market isn’t as infallible as once thought. The assumption was that, as North America surpassed peak growth and flattened out, Chinese auto sales would continue an upward trajectory. But, while China did surpass the U.S. in becoming the world’s largest auto market, it’s not living up to its billing as a golden goose.

That’s not to suggest the U.S. is about to stand triumphantly atop that mountain. Automakers are issuing profit warnings for 2019 and Moody’s Investors Service expects light vehicle sales to fall 1.2 percent this year.

“The accommodative financing environment that had helped buoy U.S. car sales is receding. Maintaining operating and financial discipline will be crucial [for 2019],” the bond credit rating business advised. (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2019

Yesterday, we discussed Volkswagen trouble in finding the perfect recipe for affordable electric cars. Today, its BMW’s turn, and a broader look at how electrification is affecting Germany on the whole.

Reducing auto emissions has become immeasurably stylish in countries across the globe, with Europe doing some of the heaviest lifting via stringent regulatory measures. As a result, Germany’s automotive sector intends to go green and push EVs to the forefront. While BMW may not have committed itself to electrification quite so thoroughly as Volkswagen, the company isn’t sitting around while the competition does everything. The company is making concerted efforts of its own. Still, there are drawbacks to upending established supply chains and dumping a fortune into developing an entirely different type of car.  (Read More…)

By on April 9, 2019

Out on bail and awaiting trial, former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan last week for the fourth time since November — putting the kibosh on a scheduled press conference where he promised to “tell the truth” about what’s been going on.

While Ghosn’s supposed bombshell will have to wait for another day, he did manage to get word out from prison in a personal video message to the world. (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2019

On Thursday, President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on cars entering the United States from Mexico if the nation doesn’t assist Washington in dealing with the migrant situation at its southern border. It’s a rather bold ultimatum, coming hot on the heels of claims that the White House was seriously considering closing the border entirely if Mexico could not curtail the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs heading north.

It’s an interesting situation, especially considering both outcomes would upend the automotive industry. But Trump argues that the growing reliance on Mexican manufacturing and proliferation of illegal immigrants has already hurt the United States badly. A contentious stance, for sure, but these are issues in need of thorough discussion. Gallup polls repeatedly peg immigration as one of the issues voters care most about — along with healthcare and the economy.

However, we only care about those things tangentially. It’s all about the cars for us.  (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2019

Image: GM

As new vehicle prices continue to climb, many wonder how high MSRPs can go before the public decides to take a pass — assuming they haven’t already. Sales growth is slowing, even in seemingly bulletproof markets like China. Even before this ominous backdrop unfurled, dealers were making noise about new car prices that had grown overly ambitious, claiming they couldn’t endure another period of sustained economic hardship.

Edmunds estimates that the average transaction price of a new vehicles reached $36,495 in December 2018 — a 3 percent increase compared to December of 2016 and a 13 percent increase compared to December of 2012. Taking that knowledge, Road & Track compiled a broader picture of the new-car market and where it might be going.

Spoilers ahead if you don’t want the unpleasant non-surprise ruined.  (Read More…)

By on April 3, 2019

On Wednesday, Toyota announced plans to offer royalty-free access to its cache of hybrid technology patents. While the automaker already licenses aspects of its Hybrid Synergy Drive to other automakers, the new strategy seeks to drastically expand the use of its systems as the world gears up for widespread electrification.

Toyota, cautious as ever, has been understandably hesitant to throw itself headlong into costly BEV development programs. It did have the foresight, however, to jump into hybrid technology earlier than most other manufacturers, and doesn’t want to see that edge lost as battery-only vehicles grow in popularity. Providing open access to the nearly 24,000 patents on hardware used in the Prius and Mirai could help the company stack the deck in its favor.  (Read More…)

By on April 3, 2019

Carlos Ghosn Rogue Introduction - Image: Nissan

Happy to relegate Carlos Ghosn to the past, Renault has announced its former CEO will soon leave the company’s executive board, along with Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair. Annette Winkler, the ex-head of Daimler’s Smart brand, will be proposed as the new director at the company’s annual meeting in June, according to the automaker.

The company also decided that Ghosn is not entitled to an annual retirement salary of about 765,000 euros a year due to an internal probe that identified “questionable and concealed practices and violations of the group’s ethical principles.”

Of course, Ghosn maintains he was the victim of a corporate coup masterminded by Nissan executives. The ousted exec recently claimed he’s “getting ready to tell the truth about what’s happening” over social media(Read More…)

By on March 28, 2019

The arrest of Carlos Ghosn, former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, seemed a rather straightforward back in November. By the time he was changing into his orange pajamas (or whatever color is most common in Japanese prisons), Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa announced Ghosn had been dismissed from the company’s board. At the time, he claimed Ghosn and his top aide (Greg Kelly) underreported their compensation and misused corporate assets.

However, it wasn’t long until the narrative grew more complex. Following global accusations that Japanese courts could not be counted on for fair treatment, due to their ludicrously high 99-percent conviction rate, Ghosn began telling the press he believed he was on the receiving end of a corporate coup devised by Nissan. Slowly but surely, minor evidence supporting his claims trickled in.

On Wednesday, an external committee reviewing Nissan’s corporate governance suggested that enough facts exist to suspect Carlos of violating securities law and misusing company funds. However, the committee’s findings include a line indicating that Saikawa signed off on Ghosn’s retirement package.  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2019

With Faraday Future and Evergrande Health having officially settled their bitter legal dispute late last year, the once-again independent automaker could finally get back to hunting for new investors. Despite Faraday’s entire existence being overshadowed by financial missteps and bizarre business dealings (resulting in an inability to deliver product), it’s extremely good at scrounging up funds. Breaking ties with its primary financial partner might have seemed like bad news, especially after so many near-death experiences, but this is where the company shines the brightest.

On Sunday, Faraday Future signed into a 50-50 partnership with Shanghai-based internet gaming operator The9 — which amassed its fortune after gaining exclusive licensing rights to operate and distribute the extremely popular World of Warcraft in China. Faraday said the deal marks the first step in its plan to officially launch its dual-home-market strategy in both China and the United States.  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2019

Renault reportedly wants to restart merger talks with Nissan next year and is even considering a follow-up marriage with another automaker — possibly Fiat Chrysler.

While the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s official goals for 2019 are difficult to pin down, a memorandum of understanding was recently established to improve corporate synergy and reassure the public that members can play nice after the drama-filled arrest of Carlos Ghosn. However, it would seem that the long game still includes mergers.

Earlier this month, top executives from Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi appeared together to prove to the world that the alliance is not in jeopardy. It was known that Ghosn had been advocating for a merger against Nissan’s wishes for years, and many, including the defamed former alliance boss, have speculated that the associated pressures aided in the company acting against him in order to see him brought up on charges.

(Read More…)

By on March 19, 2019

2018 Accord Sport 2.0-Liter Turbo - Image: Honda

Ever since the Great Recession, Millennials have become the target of blame for every economic woe imaginable. They’re not saving their money, they’re not buying homes, they’re not making enough, they change jobs too frequently, they don’t know how to shop around, they’re crippled by debt, and they aren’t buying enough cars. Depending on where you get your news, they are frequently framed as economic imbeciles incapable of doing anything right.

Of course, the obvious counterpoint to those allegations involve the broader problem stagnating wages and a market established by their higher-earning forebears that they can’t seem to wrangle — but who has the time for nuance these days?

While we primarily care about the car buying angle, it’s worth mentioning that Millennials are different from their older counterparts. Still, we were surprised in how that fact manifested itself this week. Apparently, Millennials aren’t all that excited about utility vehicles. Despite SUVs and crossovers dominating the automotive landscape, younger folks are still choosing to buy cars.  (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2019

While the Trump administration is carefully considering whether or not imported vehicles qualify as a threat to national security, and prepares for trade negotiations with Japan, Toyota is being very careful about how it comes across in America. Last week, the automaker announced plans to add about 600 jobs across the Southern United States — raising its proposed American expansion by another $749 million. In total, the company is expected to expend $13 billion inside the U.S. by 2022.

“In a time when others are scaling back, we believe in the strength of America and we’re excited about the future of mobility in America,” Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said of the decision.

Throwing some casual shade at other automakers who are cutting down their domestic workforce is a sound PR strategy but, according to Toyota, its increased investment has nothing to do with global or industrial politics.  (Read More…)

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